IT is with a great deal of diffidence that the following letter is printed. It was not written for publication. The many unkind and unchristlike attacks upon brother Russell are greatly to be deplored. We all have faults and harbor error, and it ill becomes any of us to use the lash upon another who is in our Lord's service, however much he may seem to merit it in our opinion. The few whose counsel was considered in formulating the reply have insisted that it is due to the truth and to the Lord's people that the objections of brother Russell should be given public consideration, on account of his prominent place in the religious world, especially on such an important point as the universal reconciliation. He has acknowledged the receipt of the reply in a most courteous letter, suggesting that no rejoinder is necessary as he has dealt with all the Scriptures involved in his published works. But as these are quite voluminous, and on many subjects, many will prefer the following condensed denial. May God give grace to the reader to test all by the pure word of God which alone is our authority and which is our only trust.
PASTOR RUSSELL'S LETTER
TO: A. E. Knoch
It seems strange that there could be differences of opinion on matters so clearly stated in the word of God. It must be that there is something wrong, something twisted, in some of our heads. To me it seems as plain as can be that the Bible declares that all the wicked will God destroy; again, that those who, during the Millennial age when brought to a knowledge of the truth, shall prove willful sinners will be punished with everlasting destruction; again, St. Peter's statement respecting the glorified Christ, Head and Body, and Millennial blessings: "whosoever will not obey that Prophet will be destroyed from among the people" (Acts 3:23); again, his statement, "they shall perish like brute beasts." It does seem strange that such plain statements can be made to signify the reverse to some minds!
It does seem strange to me that any one, understanding that the first death came upon all men thru Adam, and that the second death is punishment for willful personal sin and that there is no redemption from the second death, could believe that those that enter the second death could have everlasting life. I really cannot understand the mental processes by which they come to this conclusion. I confess that mine must be different.
When in Heb.6 and again in 10 St. Paul points out that those that fall away, cannot be renewed again unto repentance, it seems strange to me that this can be made to signify everlasting life in God's favor. When the Apostle says that there is a sin unto death and that it is useless to pray for such, I fail to see where their blessing comes in.
Again, we have the assurance that he that converteth a sinner from the error of his way (course) shall save a soul from death -- but how so, if no soul goes into death? I remember the Scripture which pictures the Millennial blessings, which points out that a sinner a hundred years old shall be cut off. I wonder how any one can think of that as meaning out of death. It seems very plain to my mind a cutting off from life.
In Matthew 25 we read of the sheep and the goats and how eventually the goat class will go away into everlasting punishment -- Second Death -- symbolized by fire, at the close of the Millennium. I wonder how any one can think of this as meaning blessing.
TO: Pastor C. T. Russell
Dear Sir and Brother:--
I wish to thank you for your courtesy and kindness in sending us a copy of the "Watchtower" dealing with the subjects of death, hell, and everlasting punishment. As we believe that death is death and not life, that "hell" is simply the unseen, there is much indeed in which we are quite agreed on in these subjects. Besides this we have also received from a friend your reply to our position on the universal reconciliation.
We have carefully considered what you have to say on this subject and trust that we can count on your careful reconsideration of the universal reconciliation because, almost without exception, your objections are based on a misunderstanding of what that doctrine really teaches. We, too, insist that Jehovah will destroy all the lawless (Psa.145:20); that those who do not obey the gospel will incur the justice of eonian (or age-lasting) ruin (2 Thess.1:9); that those who will not hear the Prophet whom Moses foretold shall be destroyed from among the people (Deut. 18:19) (Acts 3:23); that it is impossible to renew those mentioned in Heb.6 and 10 to repentance; that there is a sin unto death (1 John 5:16); and that those represented by the goats go away into eonian (or age-lasting) correction. There is absolutely nothing in any of these scriptures which conflicts with the universal reconciliation. Not one of these passages deals with the final outcome of God's dealings. They all are concerned with His ways in bringing about His ultimate purpose.
Let me suggest that both of us add to the truth contained in these texts. You add the thought of finality. You express that thought in one instance when you say "there is to be no redemption from the second death."
For this no scripture is given, and indeed where can one be found? And what do we add to these verities? Such further verities as these: that God will reconcile all to Himself through the cross of His beloved Son (Col.1:20); that God wills (not (desires) all men to be saved and to come to the appreciation (acknowledgment) of the truth (1 Tim.24; 2 Tim.1:25); that He is the Saviour of all men especially of those that believe (1 Tim.4:10); that as in Adam all are dying, so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor.15:22)--an expression which means more than resurrection for it involves a part in the resurrection of life, not judgment (John 5:29); that the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life (Rom.5:18); that God has locked all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all (Rom.11:32); and that all is of Him and through Him and for Him (Rom.11:36). This then, is our difference: while we both believe the passages you quote, you add a thought for which we find no warrant in God's word: we believe other scriptures which speak of a time and a condition after the judgments to which you draw attention, for God locks up all in unbelief that He may have mercy on all. In other words, you believe the passages concerning God's ways at present, to the exclusion of those passages which set forth His ultimate purpose: we believe both.
The point of difference lies in the element of time. Should you be able to show that the passages you deduce really record the end and consummation of God's plan for His creatures then there would still remain the necessity of reconciling them with the scriptures which I have suggested. Two of the scriptures you have proposed have definite marks of time. In one case we have "everlasting" ruin (2 Thess.1:9) and in another "everlasting" punishment (Matt.25:46). I note that in the Watchtower you consistently change this word to "lasting" with aionios in parenthesis. This shows that there is some doubt in your mind as to whether the word really means "everlasting." As you know, the word is formed from aion, an eon or age, which is a limited period of time. Hence aionios means eonian or age-lasting--not ever-lasting. In one of the pamphlets which we have sent you under separate cover--"All in all"--there is a study of this word along the same lines as your study of the words for "hell" etc. Every occurrence of the word is given careful consideration, and it is worth every effort, for all who take pains to examine this are forced to the conclusion that there was a time before the ages (2 Tim.1:9) and that the ages have an end (Heb.9:26). Since the ages are confined within finite bounds, that which is eonian or age-lasting, cannot be eternal. It will be useless for me however, to go into the matter here, as it is fully set forth in the pamphlet referred to.
Since, then, the eonian ruin of those who do not obey the gospel is confined to the eons or ages, "what will hinder God saving them after the eons--as He has declared He will do? Those who believe now receive salvation with eonian or age--lasting glory. Those who are not saved until after the eons or ages do not participate in eonian or age-lasting (everlasting) glory. Thus God is the Saviour of all men and especially of those that believe. Once we see that what is called "ever" lasting is limited to the "eons" or ages and is not endless, the way is clear to believe all the passages which you have produced. That destruction does not necessitate annihilation is evident both from the way this word is used in other passages (the lost--destroyed--sheep of the house of Israel to whom the Lord was sent, for example) and the fact that those who have been destroyed will all stand before the great white throne. There could be no resurrection if they had been annihilated. An examination of the original Hebrew will show that the passage "they shall be as though they had not been" (Obadiah 1:16) is mistranslated. The verb is the same in both parts of the sentence. It should read "they shall be as though they shall not be." This, instead of suggesting annihilation, refutes the idea altogether. Besides the reference is not to mankind as a whole, but only to the nations in the day of the Lord. In that same day the proud and lawless shall be burned up, leaving neither root nor branch (Mal.4:1). But even these must be included in "the `dead" who stand before God at the great white throne (Rev.20: 12). While we may reject as unscriptural the orthodox intermediate state and "hell," why should we go to the equally unscriptural extreme of annihilation, which we must admit, precludes the fulfillment of God's great oath that every knee shall bow to Him (Rom.14:11)?
I am strongly inclined to the opinion that you do not hold that death is annihilation. Now the lake of fire is explained to us as being death. What scriptural grounds is there for believing that it is not death at all but annihilation? As resurrection was a possibility with the first death so it is with the second. This is put beyond question by the fact that at the consummation, when the Son hands over the kingdom to God the Father, long after death has been cast into the lake of fire, when there is no death but the second death this is the death which is abolished by means of vivification a resurrection of life. All are made alive at that time, fulfilling the grand promise that, as in Adam all are dying, so in Christ all shall be made alive. If, at the consummation there is nothing but life, the apparent difficulty of limiting the "everlasting" life of the believer vanishes, he has life as long as there is any such thing as death, and when there is nothing but life--what else can he have? So that eonian or age-abiding life, for all practical purposes, amounts to "everlasting" life. But the destruction (or restraint as you suggest) lasts only for the eons or ages, because, in the consummation there will be no death and no sin or restraint, for so perfectly will the Son have subdued all to God that He will hand the kingdom over to God as Father and God will become All in all. Not All in a few, as orthodoxy teaches, or All in many, but All in all. May His grace constrain you to consider this transcendent truth.
Yours in His blessed service
A. E. Knoch
Editor "UNSEARCHABLE RICHES"
2823 E. 6th St., Las Angeles, Cal., U. S. A.